Aged care news highlights from the week ending 14 June 2020.
The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the aged care sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace and Critical Success Solutions.
Coronavirus / COVID-19 News
Govt accused of backflipping on retention bonus
According to Community Care Review, the government has been accused of misleading aged care workers after saying payments under the COVID-19 retention bonus grant will now be subject to tax. Aged care minister Richard Colbeck announced the $234.9 million COVID-19 workforce retention bonus for aged care workers on March 20. The bonus included what the government said was an after-tax payment of $600 per quarter for home care workers and $800 after tax per quarter for residential aged care workers. The payments, to be paid over two quarters, were to be delivered to providers to pay their workers, with part-time workers paid pro-rata. The after-tax commitment was also given by Senator Colbeck in a letter to aged care workers dated March 24. However, in a Health Department fact sheet released on June 5 – the Friday before the Queen’s birthday long weekend – the government said the payments would be subject to tax, “consistent with other COVID-19 measures”. Senator Colbeck told Australian Ageing Agenda the payment is considered income and will be taxed.
Workforce retention bonus payment
According to the Department of Health, a grant opportunity round will open on Monday 15 June 2020 to accept applications from Approved Providers and Aged Care Workforce Agencies for eligible workers to receive the Aged Care Workforce Retention Payment. The retention bonus will be paid by employers (aged care providers and agencies who provide aged care staff) to their eligible staff. Workers will be required to be employed at the time of application to be eligible. Please see the fact sheet for further details.
The grant round will remain open until 2pm Monday 20 July 2020. First payments will be made to providers/agencies in July 2020.
Is aged care understaffed? Experts say yes
According to Aged Care Insite, the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the persistent issues that plague the aged care sector, none more so than staffing levels. A report released last year by the Royal Commission and researched by academics from the University of Wollongong found that 57.6 per cent of all Australian aged care residents live in homes that are understaffed. The research found that Australia lags behind comparable nations such as the UK, New Zealand and even the US. As the COVID-19 crisis hit the aged care sector and lockdowns were enforced nationwide, staff were placed under immense pressure, and experts believe that if aged care is to improve, more staff is a must.
Re-admission of residents from other health facilities
(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)
According to The Department of Health, in accordance with the recommendations of the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC), all residential aged care facilities should conduct active screening for symptoms of COVID-19 in residents being admitted or re-admitted from other health facilities. Residents admitted from other health facilities should be assessed by appropriate medical staff prior to admission to the facility. New residents with COVID-19 compatible symptoms should not be permitted to enter a residential aged care facility.
Review of Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes put on hold
According to Aged Care Guide, the signatories of the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes have decided it is still too early to tell if the Code has been effectively implemented across the sector and will need more time to receive feedback. At this stage, there will be no changes made to the Code in its current state, even after the first review of the finalised Code on 29 May. The organisations involved in the creation of the Code will continue to monitor the implementation of the Code and any highlighted shortcomings over the next several weeks.
Two weeks in - Aged Care Industry Code reflection and questions answered
According to Aged Care Guide, the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes has mostly been adopted by a majority of aged care providers since it was introduced over the last two weeks, according to panellists taking part in a webinar hosted by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 27 May.
COVID-19 is shaping design of future facilities
According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the design of future retirement living and aged care accommodation will need to safely maximise interaction with the outside world even during a quarantine event, says a seniors living architect. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in varying restrictions on retirement living and aged care residents’ daily life and changes to how people connect with their loved ones and community. The restrictions have led to the closure of common amenities and activities for retirement living residents, who have been encouraged to self-isolate and impacted visitors, activities and excursions for aged care residents. It means these living environments are not functioning as intended, said Gary Mackintosh, associate director of architectural firm Hames Sharley.
Royal commission extends submissions deadline
According to Aged Care Insite, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has announced it will extend the deadline for public submissions until July 31. The commission had recently announced it would expand its investigative scope to include the issues that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic and initially added two months to the deadline. This new extension might hint at the number of coronavirus-related complaints the commission has received after they announced they would investigate the impact COVID-19 has had on aged care, including 27 resident and three home care deaths due to the virus. Before the pandemic hit, the new date for the final report was set at 12th November 2020, but with an extended scope and all-round disruption, this could be put back once more. The commission has so far received 8626 submissions since December 2018.
Register for aged care workers on the horizon
According to Aged Care Guide, the Federal Government has released a public consultation paper proposing a better regulated workforce for the aged care industry. If a registration scheme is established by the Government, it will ensure all staff working in aged care are suitable and qualified to be providing care and services to older vulnerable Australians. A registration scheme has been supported by peak bodies, like the Aged Care Guild and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA). Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, says the registration scheme is a step closer to being established in the sector.
To view the consultation paper or provide feedback, visit the Department of Health’s Consultation Hub, or the proposal for the development of a new aged care centre for growth and translational research can be viewed on AusTender.
My Aged Care e-referral for GPs has been updated and improved
According to the Department of Health, a new electronic process allowing GPs to refer their patients to My Aged Care directly from their practice management systems is available. The e-Referral form can be accessed from Best Practice, MedicalDirector and Genie practice management systems. The form is currently being used by over 900 practices around Australia. The form has been improved in response to feedback. The most recent update resolved an issue with attachments that was causing problems when submitting referrals to My Aged Care using the form.
Long periods of negative thinking linked to Alzheimer’s risk
According to Aged Care Insite, having constant negative thoughts over a long period of time may increase the risk of dementia, scientists believe. Researchers at University College London (UCL) have found repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is linked to the deposit of harmful proteins in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The team said these risks are associated with long periods of RNT rather than short-term negative thinking, with lead author Dr Natalie Marchant, of UCL Psychiatry, adding: “We do not think the evidence suggests that short-term setbacks would increase one’s risk of dementia.”
Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Financial Transparency) Bill 2020 (Cth) – Private Member’s Bill introduced 12 June 2020
A Private Member's Bill that amends the Aged Care Act 1997 to require residential aged care providers to give an annual financial transparency report to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, who would then make them public. The Bill also amends the Corporations Act 2001 to ensure residential aged care providers include detailed financial information in their annual financial statements. The Bill requires aged care providers to disclose their income, their spend on food and medication, the amount spent on staff and staff training, accommodation, administration, and how much they pay out to their parent bodies.
Public Health Emergency Order under Section 22D (PHEO #7) (Vic) – commenced 10 June 2020
The purpose of this Order is to enable pharmacists to supply a medicine in Victoria consistent with a Therapeutic Goods Administration Serious Shortage Medicine Substitution Notice (SSN). For the purposes of regulation 50(4) of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017, this Order specifies additional exceptional circumstances in which a pharmacist may sell or supply a Schedule 4 poison on a prescription contrary to the instructions on the prescription.
By this Order all pharmacists registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) are authorised to practise in the pharmacy profession (other than as a student) to sell or supply the Schedule 4 poison specified in the SCHEDULE contrary to the instructions on the prescription to a person in an emergency and without consulting the prescriber, in accordance with the conditions specified in the SCHEDULE.
Public Health Emergency Order under Section 22G (PHEO #6) (Vic) – commenced 10 June 2020
The purpose of this Order is:
(1) to remove the requirement for a registered medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to apply to for a Schedule 8 permit in certain circumstances, for the duration of the Order.
(2) To remove the limitation in paragraph (b) of the Order published on 26 March 2020 that a Special Schedule 8 permit was not required only if the prescription or the supply was limited to a set maximum number of treatment days, namely 30.
Resources and Upcoming Events
3rd Aged Care Workforce Forum – Developing a Customer Centric Aged Care Workforce – 23 June -2 July Online
According to the Healthcare Channel, Akolade’s 3rd Aged Care Workforce Forum has been strategically developed to aid in building effective strategies to develop and grow an efficient workforce to drive service quality delivery in aged care. 2020, and the Royal Commission is upon the industry. Let’s walk through with thought leaders the questions on everyone’s mind; how can we meet these new standards?
3rd Aged Care Tech Forum – 23 June -2 July Online
According to the Healthcare Channel, as the population of Australia ages, aged care facilities are under mounting pressure to provide superior services to customers in an increasingly competitive market. Service providers that succeed in the future will be those agile enough to harness the possibilities of new technologies and rapidly scale in order to meet new customer demands and attract government support. Technology has transformed the banking, airline, hotel, taxi, phone, photography and music industries, and now aged care needs to be disrupted.
Centre for Dementia Learning – two online courses available free until 30 June 2020
According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the Centre for Dementia Learning is committed to supporting staff in aged care and the aged care industry. This month, they are offering free education to help workers respond to changed behaviours and problem-solve challenges.
Flu vaccination poster
The Department of Health has issued this Flu Vaccination Poster. Residential aged care facilities may wish to display the attached poster at entrances, to alert anyone entering the facility of the flu vaccination requirements that came into effect on 1 May 2020.
Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line
According to The Department of Health, a new Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line has been set up to provide information, support and check on older Australians during the period of social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COTA Australia, National Seniors, Dementia Australia and the Older Person’s Advocacy Network have banded together to deliver this service with support from the Australian Government.
Senior Australians, their families and carers can freecall 1800 171 866 if they:
- would like to talk with someone about what COVID-19 means for them or a loved one
- are feeling lonely or distressed
- are caring for a someone and need some information or a listening ear about what COVID-19 means for your circumstances
- are worried about COVID-19 means for their usual aged care service
- are worried about a friend or family member living with dementia.
- are unable to access information on the internet and would like up-to-date advice.
Home care services providers can also use the number and dial option 1 to refer home care clients who would like a call from an independent organisation to check on their wellbeing.
The service will include outbound and inbound calls to provide contact, reassurance and practical advice on connecting to services to maximise social engagement and wellbeing whilst at home.
Resources on diverse population groups are now available for aged care staff
According to The Department of Health, The End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) website helps you to care for older Australians at the end of life. Our new diversity resources can help health workers and aged care staff to care for:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Care leavers
- Culturally and linguistically diverse people
- Financially or socially disadvantaged people
- People experiencing homelessness
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
- People living in rural and remote areas
- People with spirituality and faith beliefs
How people think about death, dying and end of life is different for each person. Learning about these differences can help you to provide good palliative care. Access these resources on the Diverse Population Groups page of the ELDAC website.
Calculating residential accommodation payments in a leap year
This year is a leap year, with 366 days instead of 365. The Department of Health has received queries from approved providers of residential care seeking advice on how to calculate a daily accommodation payment (DAP) in a leap year. The calculators specified in the Fees and Payments Principles 2014 (No. 2) (the Principles) refer to 365 days for working out:
- the DAP (or contribution) equivalent to a refundable accommodation deposit (RAD) (or contribution)
- the amount of interest on a RAD (or contribution) balance or accommodation bond balance.
Even though 2020 is a leap year, residential care providers should continue to use 365 days when calculating DAP amounts and the interest payable on refunds of lump sum deposits. But please be aware that daily payments and daily contributions are payable for 366 days in 2020.
What Matters Most – New person centred care resources
According to The Department of Health, Palliative Care Australia, through a Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund grant, has launched a suite of resources to encourage early conversations about What Matters Most to older people, their care and their end of life preferences.
6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care
Issued by the Department of Health, this infographic outlines the 6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care.
Aged care video alert: Dignity of risk
According to Lexology, the concept of dignity of risk is not entirely new, however it now has a position of prominence in aged care with the Aged Care Quality Standards. In this video update, senior associate Dr Melanie Tan explains:
- What does dignity of risk mean?
- Where and when does dignity of risk apply?
- What is the duty of care within dignity of risk?